John McLaren continues to waste absolutely no time setting the Opening Day roster. Today, nearly a week before the first pitch in a spring game is thrown, he announced the order of the starting rotation. Up first will be Erik Bedard (96/94), followed by Felix Hernandez (83/91), Carlos Silva (75/74), Jarrod Washburn (74/72), and then Miguel Batista (76/72). It is perhaps a little surprising that Batista, the M's leader in wins last year, is penciled in as the fifth starter, but it was going to be hard lining up these guys in a surprising order. The most surprising thing is that McLaren named the entire rotation order so early.
Frankly, starting rotation orders are a little overblown. The most important thing is to make sure that the best pitchers on the staff get the most starts. Clearly, the M's two best are Bedard and King Felix, and they are in the top two spots. The last three could really go in any order. However, with that said, McLaren made sure Washburn was sandwiched between two right-handers, which may help him, and he finally decided Batista would be fifth because he is so versatile. At times, the fifth starter is skipped, and Batista has significant experience out of the bullpen. I also think versatility in a pitcher is overblown, but there is such a small difference in talent between the bottom three pitchers that I am fine with splitting hairs and looking at things like bullpen experience.
Ultimately, the most important thing a manager can do for their pitching staff is clearly define their roles, and McLaren seems to understand this. He understands that spring training is largely about preparing for the season, not figuring out who is on the roster. I cannot remember any team announcing their rotation order this early ever before, so I have to credit McLaren with thinking outside of the box a little. This is a veteran starting staff, and once the team acquired Bedard it was obvious who the starting five would be, so I see nothing but positives from this early announcement. As curious as some of McLaren's managerial decisions were last year, I like the start he is off to in Spring Training.